Opinion

Youth Unemployment: A scourge of the COVID-19 economy- Babatunde Oguntimehin

As 2020 was dawning, the oldest members of the world’s youngest generation – Generation Z – were preparing to emerge into one of the strongest global job markets in decades.

That promising landscape was shredded in a matter of months with the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment soared everywhere, but it visited with a fury on the ranks of the youngest workers, often over-represented in service industries like restaurants and travel that were struck hardest by business shutdowns and restrictions on consumer movement and activities.

When the pandemic struck in the first quarter of 2020, the youth labor market bracket – 15-to-24-year-olds in most economic statistics – had only just begun to claw back some of their share of the job market lost during the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

In the Group of 7 advanced economies, young workers went from accounting for 11.2% of all those employed at the end of 2019 to just 10% at the end of June, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. More than 6.4 million youths lost work across the G7 in the first half of 2020.

In Nigeria, a high rate of households reported income loss, and many are still moving in and out of work.

During the first round of the survey, 42% of overall job loss could be traced directly to COVID-19, with a higher percentage of lost employment among the poorest (49%) and urban (48%) households, relative to the wealthiest (39%) and rural households (38%).

The commerce, service, and agricultural sectors were hit hardest by the spread of the virus.

Young people can turn Nigeria’s unemployment crisis around but they need better education, training and investment in entrepreneurship.

If you walk down a street in Lagos, almost three in every ten people you see are likely to be unemployed. Unemployment rates have been a growing problem in Nigeria for years.

In 2018 the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that 23.1% of people working age were unemployed. A steep rise from 14% just two years earlier. By the end of 2019, it was almost 24%. One would think that things couldn’t get much worse, but then came COVID19 and a nationwide lockdown.

The outbreak has resulted in many businesses shutting down and many more downsizing. This has made Nigeria’s rate of unemployment to rise to an unimaginable 27.1% in the second quarter of 2020 – the highest in the history of Nigeria.

Nigeria’s unemployment problem is rapidly getting out of hand, with around twenty-two million unable to work and unable to earn. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s Minister of Labour, Senator Chris Ngige suggested the worst is yet to come, predicting rates of 33.5% by the end of 2020.

Babatunde Oguntimehin wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria

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